‘The Blackstaff Nuisance’: Civic Culture and the Environment in Victorian Belfast, 1842-1878
Sean Farrell, Northern Illinois University
Belfast was the most dynamic urban centre in nineteenth-century Ireland. The northern capital’s rapid demographic and industrial growth created severe environmental, political, and social challenges. One of the most important of these concerned the Blackstaff River, which ran through the textile districts of south/west Belfast before emptying into the River Lagan. Known colloquially as the ‘the Blackstaff nuisance’, the river flooded its banks regularly and its polluted course was closely associated with deadly disease. The Blackstaff stood as an important counter to Victorian Belfast’s self-image as a center of British progress in Ireland. Using a wide array of contemporary sources, this paper charts the ways that Belfast civic leaders and reformers grappled with “the Blackstaff nuisance,” highlighting the ways that fears of the new urban environment overlapped with anxieties about the power of emerging class and sectarian identities in the new industrial city.
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About the Irish Studies Seminar
The Newberry Library Irish Studies Seminar brings together scholars to advance understanding of Irish culture both nationally and globally. The Irish Studies Seminar is supported by Mr. and Mrs. William F. Mahoney and Christine and Michael Pope, the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, and the DePaul University Irish Studies Program.